As a rule, any Paris packing list should avoid tight pants.
Why? Because there’s scarcely a space, from the tiniest alleys to the grandest boulevards, that isn’t chockablock with unbelievable food. But while the fancy French cuisine served in the streetside bistros is wonderful, it’s the French pastry tradition that’s likely to linger in your memory (and waistline) for years to come.
With so many patisseries and boulangeries in the city, it can be overwhelming. And while the best advice is to try as many as possible, time isn’t always on your side. To help reduce the volume of crappy croissants or misery-inducing macarons, we’ve compiled a list of the best places to find a selection of Parisian pastry staples (all verified by our staff).
(Side note: if you’re unfamiliar with French terms, a boulangerie is a traditional bakery making bread and other staples as well as pastries. A patisserie is solely a pastry shop and legally required to employ a master pastry chef to hold the title)
(side-side note: stop pronouncing the “R” in “croissant.”)
Ah, the humble baguette. Synonymous with Paris, you’ll likely see locals darting through the streets at lunch, one under their arm or mid-way chew. It’s so ingrained in the city’s culture that it’s recently been declared a UNESCO heritage.
To legally be classified as a baguette tradition, they can only contain four ingredients – wheat flour, yeast, salt, and water. On top of that, they must measure between 55 and 70 cm, weigh 250 to 300 grams, and have 18 grams of salt per kilogram of flour.
Our pick of the thousands of boulangeries is Boulangerie des Frères Blavette. This endearing little corner bakery is found on Rue Daguerre, a lively street on the outskirts of Montparnasse. You won’t miss its baby-blue exterior. Its baguettes are an utter delight and recently placed in the top ten best baguettes in the city. Grab a jambon beurre (butter and ham) for lunch before checking out the nearby catacombs and Montparnasse cemetery. Their pastries aren’t to be missed, either.
Almost equal to the baguette, the traditional French butter croissant is another Parisian staple. Try as you may; they’re unavoidable. Why you’d want to avoid them is another question altogether.
Sadly, the croissant’s prominence worldwide means standards for this pastry aren’t always high – especially in the tourist district. So before you dismiss the buttery wonder of the croissant as overrated based on your hotel’s stale attempt, get out and explore some of the best options.
La Maison d’Isabelle takes top marks in our books. The little boulangerie won the best croissant in Paris back in 2018 thanks to its perfect balance of crispiness, butteriness, and melt-in-the-mouthiness. Utter heaven.
Best Pain au chocolat
The croissant’s chocolaty sibling, the Pain au Chocolat isn’t gifted quite the same status, but that doesn’t mean it’s devoured any less. Not only do bakers need the usual balance in their pastries, but they also need to factor in the chocolate. Too sweet and richness overpowers the taste; too dark and the bitterness distracts from the pastry.Tout Autour du Pain, just north of the La Marais, makes an excellent one. The little bakery has won awards for its baguettes and croissants, so its bakers know what they’re doing.
Tourists in France criminally underrate flans. Maybe there’s not enough time to try everything, but why they’re passed over so often is a mystery. For the uninitiated, the Parisian flan is a rich vanilla custard tart, generally served in generous slices. They’re sweet, they’re creamy, they’re decadent, and they’re amazing.
Our writer Steven attributes the 10 pounds he gained last year to No Pain No Gain’s award-winning flan. He had the fortune (misfortune for his waistline) of staying on the same block as the amusingly named boulangerie for six weeks, where its flan tradition became a staple afternoon treat. It’s so good it was named the third best flan in France – not just in Paris.
The word “eclair” literally means “flash of lightning.” It might have something to do with the shiny chocolate glaze, or it might be about the speed one devours them. If you haven’t bitten into the soft choux, rich chocolate, and luxurious cream of an eclair, you haven’t lived.
Our advice? Eat as many as you can from as many patisseries as you can. Then on your last day, go to Carl Marletti to experience the eclair as art. It’s more expensive than your typical shop, but it’s worth it. Try traditional chocolate, then indulge in one of his seasonal creations. The butter caramel one is heavenly. Then if you see Carl, hug him.
Mille-feuille. Oh, Mille-feuille. French patisserie at its finest. Perfectly flaky layers of puff pastry punctuated with a generous portion of creme patisserie, then made fabulous by a comb glaze. It’s a staple in every French pastry shop. It’s a mess to eat. But it’s lovely.
One of the best in Paris is created at Le Moulin de la Vierge. The original location in the 7th Arrindeissment has borne the same name since the 1300s earning its striking black and gold decor-protected status. Thankfully, it’s not just a pretty face; its simple iteration of the Mille-feuille is a grand affair.
Macarons have long been billed as one of the most luxurious pastries in the world. The little meringue taste bombs have seeped into almost every country, taking chocolate’s place on Valentine’s Day and stirring enough interest for American cities to boast entire stores dedicated to them.
Paris does them best, though. But you must be weary. Like the croissants, many shops in the tourist districts let their quality slip long ago, so make sure you do some research.
Pierre Herme sits atop the macaron throne. With multiple locations dotted around the city, you won’t be far from one, so go and splurge on a big box. They’re not cheap, but more than worth working your way through a dazzling array of unusual flavors. You’ll find the staples like pistachio and mocha, but look out for black truffle, fig and foie gras, and pine nut. The beautiful boxes also make great souvenirs.
Best Cream Puffs
If the French have mastered anything, it’s ensuring that even the tiniest bite should be worth it. That ideal is never better exemplified than with the choux bun – or cream puff, as you’d say in the States. Delightfully crispy on the outside but with a flavor packing a punch of cream or fondant.
Odette’s idyllic location in the 5th arrondissement will win you over before you’ve taken a bite, but you’ll be back for more after sampling a few of their outstanding puffs. The raspberry one packs an incredible burst of flavor, while the coffee puff is a lesson in richness.
We know. A cookie isn’t exactly French. But we’ll fight anyone who suggests Scoop me a Cookie doesn’t make one of the best in the world. Borderline life-changing, the Parisian franchise’s flavors are unbelievable and more than worth mentioning alongside the French classics. It was founded by a French lady who stumbled into baking but couldn’t fall in love with the perceived snobbery of the Parisian patisserie scene. We’re glad she did.
Seriously, take one look at their website, and you’ll choose your hotel based on proximity to a store.